(def: treated with irreverence or disrespect)

There are many feelings we might have around the whole Dominic Cummings saga, but a word that keeps on coming up for me is violated. The whole spirit of lockdown hung on this idea that we were in it together. We were standing as one. And even if you didn’t quite believe that whole storyline, and saw the chilling inequality statistics around those who were dying from it, most of us were behaving like it was true. We were ready to buy into the idea that we were getting closer, supporting each other more, doing what it takes to keep the virus at bay.

It feels that idea is crumbling, dying with the echoes of that final clap for carers. Why? Mostly, because of Dominic Cummings and because something in his support by Boris Johnson and others seems to suggest that they all always thought that there were different rules for them. We suspect their lockdown was done in a spirit of exceptionalism – we never were together in this.

It may have been a system of rules that Dominic Cummings violated – Durham police have said they regard his visit to Barnard Castle as a minor breach – but many of us are feeling the assault personally. Violation is a visceral feeling. We experience it all the more intensely now, in this period in which we have come to see ourselves more as one body, one herd, in which the virus is at large. I feel it physically, bodily, every time I hear more of the Cummings story – because we know our own struggles to keep with the rules, and we have a sense of ourselves as a group doing it together. I feels like betrayal. It churns in the gut like bad faith. It's also – Johnson beware – not a feeling we are ever likely to forget.

Vicky Allan: Lockdown has turned us into liars and rule-benders


(def: able to act as one wishes, or not confined or imprisoned)

Freedom is a barbecue, or maybe a picnic with another household, where you get have to bring your own cutlery and not touch the other people’s food. It’s meeting family members who live within a five-mile radius of your home, but keeping the two-metre gap, and not hugging. Definitely no hugging. Of course, that’s not all that freedom is. To some people it might be, as it was in Peterborough last week, a mass rave in a house of 300 people. To others it might be being able to wander down the middle of the street because it’s lockdown and there are no cars – a freedom now lost.

I’d been saying that the new rules were just going to really be equivalent to the old rules as bent by most people already, but this idea that we could actually go and spend time with another family, sit in my sister-in-law’s garden for her birthday next week, almost gave me a flurry of giddiness. Could that really be true? Was it even right? It feels almost like someone is playing some trick, or offering something that might immediately be taken away. Because, of course, that’s the fear, that we go out and party, and however far down the line, because this virus is not to be messed with, we’re back in the clink again.

What do we do with our newfound freedom which feels so wild and exuberant but also constrained? Lockdown has, where it has been about pleasure, been all about the small pleasures, and again this is what we find ourselves contemplating – just what a joy it is to sit on the grass with a friend in this blazing sunshine.

But the problem with a bit of freedom, though, is it makes you want to take a little more. You meet one household and already you’re thinking about meeting another and then potentially setting up a socialising rota for the week, which is not what phase 1 was really meant to be about, not what Nicola wanted.

Virginia Woolf once said “to enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves”. Nelson Mandela said something similar, but different: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” I won’t go on quoting. There are many variations on this theme – all of them worth remembering as we take these first teetering steps in the bright sunshine of small freedom.